STONE ● PLATE ● GREASE ● WATER
The starting point for this exhibition was my personal interest in lithography, as a printmaker, collaborating printer and teacher. I was first introduced to the process as a student at Edinburgh College of Art in 1985, by Elspeth Lamb, an inspirational teacher, whose knowledge of the subject was and is exceptional - having studied at the famous Tamarind Institute of Lithography in Albuquerque. Ten years later I too studied at Tamarind, training to become a Master Printer and since then I have had the skill and knowledge to make lithographs, to collaborate and print for other artists and of course, to teach students, which I now do at the School of Art in Aberystwyth.
Lithography, particularly stone lithography is a fascinating medium like no other. For the uninitiated, it involves preparing large blocks of limestone, graining with grit and water; drawing with greasy crayons and ink and processing the result using chemicals, gum and acid. Occasionally referred to as a form of alchemy, lithography is also sheer hard work, physically demanding, exhausting even. It is however a magical process that provides opportunities for mark-making that is wholly unique.
There is something quite special about drawing on to a freshly grained lithography stone; the surface absorbs the grease from the crayons and causes the liquid ink washes known as tusche to dry and to reticulate into fantastic web-like structures. Even in plate lithography where plates of ball-grained zinc or aluminium are used instead of stone, there is directness about the process, which allows for each and every mark drawn onto the surface to be transferred to the paper during printing.
This exhibition was thus planned as a celebration of lithography, determining current practice in contemporary printmaking. The intention was to demonstrate both the versatility and the diversity of the process by including lithographs that have been conceived using as many diffaerent techniques and approaches as possible. As a result the exhibition embraced stone lithography; plate lithography including examples of zinc plate, aluminium plate and photoplate; waterless lithography including Toray plate; and mixed media prints that combine lithography with other processes such as etching, screenprinting and woodcut.
Represented in the exhibition were autographic techniques of crayon and pencil, rubbing crayon, pen and ink drawing, tusche wash, together with techniques of manière noire including scraping, honing, gum stop out, Lo-Shu wash and acid tint. The exhibition also included examples of transfer-lithography and photoplate that utilise hand-drawn prepared positives, film positives and computer generated digital imagery. It was great to see the diversity of approach currently being used, with printing in black and white, printing in colour, collage, miniature prints, large-scale prints, artists' books, postcards and even sculpture.
Selection of work for the exhibition was not an easy task, as there were in total, 120 submissions including an estimated 700 images by artists from at least seven countries worldwide. Submissions came from established printmakers, lithographers, professional printers, painters, sculptors, illustrators and book artists as well as from students and those who perhaps have made only one lithograph in their life. There were also group submissions from workshops including at least seventeen from The Centre for Lithography and Editioning in Buenos Aires. As well as trying to include as many techniques as possible, it was also desirable to embrace as broad a range of imagery. Including the work of 64 artists - the exhibition comprised an eclectic range of interests from the figurative - landscape, portraiture and still life to the illustrative and more abstract.
Paul Croft March 2007